Wednesday 30 January 2013

Mission Visa - Phase Three

I stamped in into South Africa which was quite easy as I remembered from two years ago. The only funny thing, is that at every border crossing, the officials always ask what my car registration number was. Why would a white guy come here without a car. Once on the other side I found an ATM at the petrol station to which I walked from the border post. There was a small supermarket as well (and plenty of other stores) from which I promptly bought a few things. After 5 months spent in Mozambique, it felt absolutely wonderful to be in a proper supermarket with “modern” products. The only supermarket in Inhambane is a chinese held store which has a lot of cheap chinese crap.

International bus station in Maputo
I then went looking out for a ride to Swaziland. My plan was to get straight in again through the Swazi border. Still being at the petrol station, they told me to jump into one of the taxis that went back to the border and then to catch a ride to Naas. That itself cost me R 10. The next ride to Naas, which was much longer cost me R 19. So far I enjoyed the sightseeing part of the trip, as I had plenty to see while driving through the countryside. At least I was moving. Having left most of my belongings in Tofo, I was very keen to get back in as soon as possible. VĂ©ronique and Aline were due to arrive on Sunday as well, and I really wanted to meet the girls there. They would be here for 8 days of diving, so that would be over quickly once they got here.

From Naas I went to Mananga (called Lebombo on the Swaziland side), one of the several borders between South Africa and Swaziland. Entering Swaziland is quite easy and costless. You just have to fill out an entry form and then you get a stamp. They don't even state for how long you are allowed to stay. Discussing the matter with an ex state prosecutor, I learned it was allowed to stay indefinitely as long as you don't work. When crossing the actual gate, I handed over my gate slip and asked for directions on what bus I should next take to go to the Mozambican border. Not knowing, they advised me to go and check it out with the waiting taxi-busses. The drivers told me I would have to go to Simunye, and from there catch another ride to Lomahasha. When I asked again once sitting in the bus, the guy next to me, Armando, told me he was Mozambican and that he was on his way there as well. He had to cross the border there to exit South Africa so as to be allowed in again in Ressano Garcia next time. He's got no working visa for SA. This taxi drove criss-cross through the countryside and stopped at every sugar-field corner. It was very slow going. When we got to Mapife (close to Simunye), we got out and went to look for the bus to Lomahashe, the Swaziland border post to Mozambique. A small delivery truck was stopping there briefly, and Armando didn't miss the chance to ask him for a ride to the border post. So we jumped onto tires sitting on paint buckets. The truck was hooded so it was difficult to watch out from under it, but I caught glimpses of the beautiful scenery unfolding, which is not unlike Switzerland. This trip was getting most interesting and exciting. Arriving in the settlement of Lomahasha we jumped off and each gave the driver R 10 for the trip. We walked towards the border and I started getting nervous again. Would they let me in or not ?

Yuli Restaurant & Bar in Manzini, Swaziland
Getting out of Swaziland was not a problem. A simple stamp and a walk through the no man's land between the border posts. In Lomahasha you even buy some duty free alcohol if you have an exit stamp from Swaziland. Armando bought one of the guys exchanging money some duty free beers which they can't buy themselves. We walked on towards the Mozambican side.

Seeing that my last visa had expired two months previously, and that the exit stamp was dated of the current day, they didn't like that I tried to get in again. They told me I had to go get a visa from either embassy in Mbabane, Swaziland or Nelspruit, South Africa. We tried to convince them to make me a new visa, but nothing would do. We then walked out of the border post, walked around the building, and up to the gate where we tried to bribe my way into the country without a stamp. That was actually exactly what I didn't want to do, but somewhere in my mind, I just wanted to go back to Mozambique. But I was glad it failed, because being illegal in the country once, was more than enough. I didn't fully realize what I was trying to do at that moment, but when I did, it was over anyway. Unfortunately, they revoked Armando's entry, so that we both had to go back to Swaziland. He spoke to some guys who, he said, would be trying to slip us into the country. Once I established that they wanted to get me in without a visa again, I refused. I told Armando he'd probably get in without me, so we split. He accompanied me to the next departing taxi, and then left. I didn't take his number and he never called or sent any message. So I never knew if he managed to get in.

Swaziland countryside
In this bus I met Sicelo who works in Lomahasha and lives in Manzini. He offered to help me settle in for the night and gave me directions for the bus station for the next morning. We talked all the way to Manzini with another guy who's a nurse in Lomahasha. He studied in Finland and knows quite a bit about Switzerland. A Finnish friend of his worked several years in Geneva, and had passed over a lot of information, which he remembers quite well.

After leaving the hilly parts we drove through sugar-fields again. We arrived in Manzini in the early evening. The town is about a hundred kilometers away from Lomahasha. Sicelo led me to the Park Hotel where I checked in and went to my room. I called Gizela to tell her I wouldn't be back at Edna's place tonight and that I was fine. After a good shower to wash off the sweat I felt much better. I never planned to visit Swaziland, and much less to spend the night there, but it felt good to travel and visit unknown places again. Five months in Tofo without much moving around (except between Tofo, Inhambane and Maxixe) had made me lazy. That day inspired me to go out and travel the world again. Being on the road with a goal set, is one of the best ways of traveling. I have difficulty to just roam around with no goal whatsoever. I wish the goal was more pleasant than trying to get back into Mozambique. I wouldn't even try so hard if I hadn't left all my stuff in Tofo, thinking I would be back after 2 or 3 days at the most.

After my shower and the call to Gizela I went out to Yuli Bar & Restaurant which is located across the street from the hotel. I was having a beer or two and three samosas there when I met Pxila Zlamini, a former state prosecutor in Swaziland. We exchanged some views and ideas and he told me a few stories of criminals in Swaziland. He told me to call him the next day if it didn't work out with my visa, as he could maybe pull some strings and help me out.
After that I went back to the hotel and tried to sleep.

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